Romanian Orthodox for Enquiry in America

RoeaNews.info


Guardians of the Vatra


Orthodox Brotherhood Documents

ROAA/BOR Documents


Too American for Orthodoxy

Author: Protodeacon Eric Wheeler
June 13, 2010
icon13
Maybe I’m Just Too American For This Orthodox Church

from: ocanews.org

ART. 7
AT THE EPISCOPAL ASSEMBLY AND AFTER – UNITY OF ORTHODOX IN NA
26-28 MAY 2010 NEW YORK
LA ADUNAREA EPISCOPALA SI DUPA – UNIREA ORTODOCSILOR DIN NA

I firmly believe that America offers the potential for the Orthodox Faith to flourish and grow like in no other land or culture. Unfortunately, at times, we cannot free ourselves from the “old world” mentality which mires us in our “ancient” faith. Consequently, it makes it difficult for Americans to even attempt to understand the fundamentals of our Faith. As the first historic Episcopal Assembly ends, and I read the message delivered at its conclusion, I cannot help but feel that we are attempting to fix our American jurisdictional problem with an “old world” mentality solution. Consequently, it makes it difficult for this American to understand why we are being so Byzantine in seeking a plan for Orthodox unity in America.

From the very beginning, the America colonists were used to doing things their own way. When problems arose, they fixed them on their own, and did not wait for direction from Great Britain. The revolutionary spirit which led to the establishment of the United States in America has not waned; it is still very much alive in our spirit and culture - we are a “can do” people who think outside the box and take matters into our own hands. Because of our entrepreneurial nature and our ability to change direction without being a slave to protocol, we are able to solve our problems by charting a course of action. It is this spirit which has made us today the most powerful and influential nation in the world. It is this same spirit that is so attractive to people from foreign cultures that come in contact with Americans. And, it is the same spirit that can cause our Orthodox Faith to flourish in this land.

Many people will state that the convening of the Episcopal Assembly was a major step towards Orthodox unity in the Americas. But, the message issued at its close does not convince my American spirit that the goal of the Episcopal Assemblies is a united autocephalous Orthodox Church in America any time soon- sounds like we have just created another version of SCOBA with a marginalization of the Orthodox Church in America. So committees are created to determine who is canonical and who is not, a registry is created, and the pastoral needs of the Orthodox living in our nation will be addressed - been there, done that over the past 50 years with SCOBA!

Archbishop Demitrios is to be commended for finessing the presence of the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America at the Assembly in spite of the protestations of the Ecumenical Patriarch. On the other hand, the Ecumenical Patriarch did succeed in stifling any voice from the Moscow Patriarchate in support of the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America, probably through some quid pro quo deal over the Ukrainian situation. And the news blockade during the Assembly (even though matters of national security were not being discussed) seemed to be quite successful. With its complex schemes and bureaucratic intrigue, all of this seems to be patterned after Byzantine politics as usual in an attempt to avoid talking about the 800 pound gorilla in the room - the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America.

It is no secret that many of the efforts to maintain control over the American Church are rooted in the need for the ancient Patriarchates to seek support for their very survival. What they do not realize is that an autocephalous Church in America will have far more ability to influence nations and gain support for causes relative to our Orthodox Church throughout the world when it speaks as the independent Orthodox Church in America.

As an American Orthodox Christian, I am concerned that the ancient Orthodox Patriarchates do not have a clue when dealing with the multi-jurisdictional situation in America because in large part they do not understand our American spirit. As Americans, it is part of our nature to celebrate ethnic diversity - something completely foreign to the homogenous traditional Orthodox lands. They lack our capacity to adapt to change and our ability to forge solutions in a rapid manner when faced with obstacles. And, they do not realize that we can in fact solve our own problems and present a plan of action for them to accept, in a relatively short period of time, if we only had their blessing to proceed. From my limited perspective, the events of the Assembly appeared to be choreographed down to the minutiae from Istanbul in order to avoid another Ligonier.

Before I am accused of just being cranky, let me propose a number of steps that can enhance the ability of our ancient Patriarchates to understand the jurisdictional situation in America:

An American presence as Observer with a voice at the Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conferences would greatly enhance the understanding of our situation in America among the “old world” delegates. The Decision of the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference dictated to us in America the groundwork for the Episcopal Assembly - talk about taxation without representation - the entrepreneurial spirit in America has served to enhance the resources of Americans that have greatly supported both financially and politically many of the ancient Patriarchates. Unfortunately, no one from America was represented when the Episcopal Assemblies were discussed in Chambesy.

If it is the desire of the Episcopal Assembly to truly move towards an autocephalous Church in America, it would behoove them to place a representative of the Orthodox Church in America on the Executive Committee. The OCA has been an autocephalous church for more than 40 years, and even though we have seen our share of scandal, we had the ability to solve our problems on our own without reaching across the ocean for guidance or approval. At present, the Orthodox Church in America is the most transparent Orthodox Church throughout the land and we have in fact had experience dealing with multi-ethnic jurisdictions within our autocephalous church; we have also functioned as an independent entity since the 1920s’and have been a presence in North America for over 200 years.

Let the Assembly review the historic documents and working papers which led up to the creation of the Orthodox Church in America. Greater minds than what I see today were the architects of the autocephaly of the former Metropolia which addressed a specific need during a specific time in history.  The Assembly must provide for participation from both the clergy and lay representatives of our Church. The Orthodox experience in America has been shaped by a collaborative spirit. This is the time for flowering of sobornost, not for a return to the autocratic way of the old countries.

Let the faculties of our seminaries, which represent multi-jurisdictions here in America, prepare working documents on a canonical and administrative structure for the Americas. The Orthodox Church in America currently has three major seminaries and there has been talk about the seminaries working together towards a unified approach to theological education. It is a disappointment to me that seminaries’ faculty members of the Orthodox Church in America no longer seem to represent a leading force in the life of our Church. What the faculty do not seem to realize is that the workers they are preparing will not have a vineyard to plant their fruit in if they do not engage in being a part of the preparatory steps towards an autocephalous Orthodox Church in the Americas.

Whether one wishes to admit it or not, the Orthodox Church in America has a lot more to offer the Episcopal Assemblies than what was proffered us at the present table. And, with our American spirit we have the ability to solve our canonical problems in a relatively short period of time if we only had the blessing from the ancient Patriarchates to proceed. The ultimate goal of the Episcopal Assemblies is in fact what currently exists, in microcosm, in the Orthodox Church in America - so, dear hierarchs of the ancient lands, take another look at the Orthodox Church in America.

5 Comments to “Too American for Orthodoxy”


  1. Administrator Says:

    As has been said before: “If you say you are the Orthodox Church of America, then act like it.” Of course you must be ready to live with the consequences, but in Christ’s Church the Truth is the Truth and it eventually comes to the fore. Swallowing one’s pride in an attempt to convince others is commendable as is being prepared to give up titles and position, but anything beyond that falls into relativism and lying.


  2. Administrator Says:

    Cum s-a mai spus: “Daca spui ca esti Biserica Ortodoxa Americana, atunci sa o demonstrezi prin actiunile tale. Desigur trebuie sa fii gata sa traiesti cu consecintele, dar in Biserica lui Hristos, Adevarul este Adevarul si pana la urma iese la lumina. Sa-ti inghiti propria mandrie pentru a convinge pe altii este un lucru de aplaudat, cum este si renuntarea la titluri si pozitii, dar orice mai mult devine relativism si minciuna.


  3. Anonymous Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org ‘Comments’ regarding “Too American for Orthodoxy”

    Wheeler is right! This Ep. Assembly is baloney! If the OCA is going to be treated as a “non-entity,” then the OCA should not participate. And when was Orthodox Canon Law changed giving foreign bishops control over local churches? The ONLY canonical church in N. Am. is the OCA - all the others are “visitors” and representatives of “foreign bishops.” They have no canonical authority over N. Am. - READ CANON LAW!

    … The Phanar with his subservient bishops, has decided to treat the OCA as a “NON-ENTITY.” Well, baloney! What we have is the “tail wagging the dog” in N. Am. The OCA is the legitimate successor of the ORIGINAL ORTHODOX MISSION in N. Am. and we should be treated as a “NON-ENTITY?” Our canonical autocephaly should be dismissed by a bishop who follows Roman Catholic ecclesiology and seeks world domination of the Orthodox Churches? NEVER! + Jonah can be replaced if he wants to roll-over for this folly. Just as + Isidore returned from the Council of Florence to Kiev/Russ and was thrown out of Russia by THE PEOPLE for signing this false union, so can the OCA bishops who wish to follow the false eccesiology of the Phanar. Recognize and respect the OCA or get out of OUR LAND!

    (ocanews - Editor’s note): Ah, as the song says, “This Land is your land, this land is my land..” - everyone is welcome here, as were our all our ancestors, whether they came last week, or 10,000 years ago. The ecclesiology of the Phanar may be deficient, but they too are welcome. Our goal as Orthodox in America must be to work out a way forward for all - not just some. It is absurd for the OCA to ignore the fact that at least half of the Orthodox population in North America is Greek, even as it is for the Phanar to ignore the 1/4 of Orthodox America that is in the OCA. The OCA has shown it is open to a larger solution; but it requires autocephaly, even if it subsumes the OCA’s. The Phanar killed the last step forward at Ligonier in 1994 because that is where it was naturally headed. Will this time be different? How? Why? What changed? I for one would love to hear those questions explained. It seems to me the Phanar can spend the next 40 years trying to ignore and deny the OCA’s autocephaly, as it has spent the last 40; or seek a new way forward. It would seem the exigencies of history are on the OCA’s side, for in 50 years the OCA will be here. Will the Phanar? Of course the traditional Byzantine way of dealing with administrative problems were twofold: bribery or assasination. Is the Phanar’s goal to murder the OCA administratively through the EA and Chambesy process? (Because if anybody thinks the Orthodox in Switzerland and Leichtenstein are in a process towards autonomy or autocephaly, give me some of what you are smoking….) A great deal of trust has to be created here, given the last century of ideology, dictatorship, phyletism, etc. Including the OCA on the Executive would have built some: the denial simply encourages the perspective for many that trust would be misplaced at this time. The EA smacks a bit too Byzantine for America and Americans; at least for those of us who do not share that culture tradition - nor have any desire to do so in the future. Why not be scriptural instead, and let our yes be yes, and our no, no; and if we don’t know, just say, we don’t know? Orthodox unity cannot be so important that we are willing to “murder” to achieve it, is it? )


  4. Rebecca Matovic Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org ‘Comments’ regarding “Too American for Orthodoxy”

    This is exactly the kind of rhetoric that is profoundly unhelpful because it deals in caricature of all sides and favors a mythology of what should be over the reality of what actually is and has been. All of the OCA bishops were included in the Assembly. Some way has been finessed by Abp. Demetrios to include the OCA in the work of the Executive Committee. Is it all ideal? No. Is it time to take our marbles and go home because everyone won’t bow before our mythologized version of the history of the church in America? Also, no.

    50 years have passed since SCOBA began. 40 years have passed since the autocephaly of the OCA. 15+ years have passed since what ended up being the debacle of Ligonier. All have moved the cause of unity in America forward. Now there is this new structure which has the potential to move things forward in a new way. Right now it’s only potential. Our role, and the role of all the various jurisdictions at this point, should be to encourage the positive aspects of the EA process and structure and come to it in good faith, open minds, open hearts, and prayerful consideration. To do otherwise would be destructive of our common goals and, ironically, of the original vision of the OCA herself.

    No real solution to the problems in America can come about by ignoring the OCA as an entity. Likewise, no real solution can come about by sticking to a vision of the OCA as the only legitimated entity. We have to start with reality, not with ideology. And the ultimate solution will come from human relationships worked out in love and mutual understanding, not from an imposed structure (no matter what the structure and no matter who it is imposed by)…


  5. Isa Almisry Says:

    as posted on aoiusa.org ‘Comments’ regarding “Too American for Orthodoxy”

    From the very beginning, the America colonists were used to doing things their own way. When problems arose, they fixed them on their own, and did not wait for direction from Great Britain. The revolutionary spirit which led to the establishment of the United States in America has not waned; it is still very much alive in our spirit and culture – we are a “can do” people who think outside the box and take matters into our own hands. Because of our entrepreneurial nature and our ability to change direction without being a slave to protocol, we are able to solve our problems by charting a course of action. It is this spirit which has made us today the most powerful and influential nation in the world. It is this same spirit that is so attractive to people from foreign cultures that come in contact with Americans. And, it is the same spirit that can cause our Orthodox Faith to flourish in this land…


Leave a Comment;

E-Mail addresses will not be displayed and will only be used for e-mail notifications.
Not all of your comments are necessarily displayed on this website.
Comments are not necessarily those of RoeaNews.info.



ROEANews.info is the website of "Romanian Orthodox for Enquiry in America" and is not affiliated with the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (ROEA) or with the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).

PRAYER OF ST. EPHREM

O Lord and Master of my life,
leave me not with the spirit of laziness,
of despair, of domination, or idle words.

Rather, give me, your servant, the spirit of integrity,
of humility, of patience, and of love.

Thus, Lord, grant me the wisdom to see my own faults,
and not condemn my brother;

for You are blessed, now and forever. Amen.



OUR FATHER

Our Father, who are in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day
our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.